Good Heavens. Every now & then my darling mother-in-law emails me something to read (which ALWAYS proves to be INCREDIBLE). Lately I've hardly read even the most pressing things in my inbox, but tonight I felt like sitting down and reading whatever she'd sent me most recently. All I can say is: ...I don't know what to say!! I am strongly impressed of the purity of truth I found in this article. Some of these concepts BLOW my mind! Furthermore, there is an intense itch for discussion brewing and I'm dying to pick the brains of some of my peeps. So read it and tell me what ya think.
I should add here that an open-minded (and -hearted and -spirited) approach is the way to decipher what you believe is truth of course, as with anything else. Any questions, check out LDS.org or Mormon.org, or ask me & if I don't have the answer we'll find out together. But seriously, read this. It's amazing! I painted red the parts that stood out most to me. Hope you enjoy! :)
The Dynamics of Sin
By Larry Barkdull
If you enjoyed this article you’ll also enjoy, Maurine Proctor’s “Can You Feel So Now?”
I confess that on occasion I have sinned. I’m not proud of it. What I thought I would enjoy ended up making me miserable. Worse, I gained a troubling companion whom I had a hard time shaking loose. This article is dedicated to my fellow sinners. All of the rest of you can ignore it and rejoice that you are past such things. But I have the feeling that I am in good company. I am sure that there are people out there like me, those who are trying to do their best, but who, to their disappointment, frequently bump up against their “natural man” and the frightening reality of sin.
Why does Satan tempt us to commit sin? To make us miserable is the quick answer. But if we dig deeper and gain understanding of how misery is produced, we will unearth Satan’s sinister strategy.
The Influence of the Adversary
A mother of seven spoke of sin as disempowering spiritual hemorrhaging that renders a person ignorant of God and of the simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ:
Two of my seven children left the Church, leaving me hurt and confused. For a while, I beat myself up over my apparent failure as a mother, but that did little good. Despite all my suffering and soul-searching, I could not discover where my husband and I had gone wrong. Not that we are perfect parents—we are not—but why had we lost these two children? They were brought up alongside our other children who had remained true.
When I decided to give myself a break and look for another reason, I took my question to the Lord. My conversation went something like this: “These children have not only left the Church and are critical of it, they also seem absolutely ignorant of the most basic gospel principles! That is the most confusing part to me. It is as though they had never heard of gospel concepts before—like everything is foreign to them. How could this be? They grew up in our home where we had family prayers, family home evenings, and gospel discussions. Weren’t they listening? They went to church with us and had equal opportunities in the gospel with our other children, and yet they seem to be as clueless as new investigators. They seem to have forgotten everything that we taught them. How did this happen?”
As I pondered, a scripture was impressed upon my mind: “That wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience.” I couldn’t remember the location of the scripture, but I soon found it in Doctrine and Covenants 93:39. The adjoining verses read, “I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth,” and “Light and truth forsake that evil one.” Suddenly, I realized what had happened. My husband and I had tried to bring up our children in light and truth, but these two children had chosen to commit sin in their youth. Worse, they had failed to repent. Their disobedience and disregard for repentance had opened the door for Satan to come and take away their light and truth. Now they were rendered ignorant, as though they had no gospel literacy at all.
When they lost their light and truth, they filled the void by adopting bizarre philosophies to explain life and spiritual things. Now I knew why their inactivity and rebellion had happened, and now I gained a greater appreciation for the prophets’ counsel to repent quickly and sincerely. Procrastination, I learned, causes gospel stagnation at best and gospel illiteracy and captivity by the devil at worst. Now armed with this understanding, I center my prayers on asking for opportunities to reintroduce basic gospel concepts to these children with the hope that they will one day remember and respond.
Light. This mother used the words “light” and “truth” as though they were a substance. In fact, they are. A survey of the scriptures reveals that the word lighti is synonymous with truth,ii spirit,iii intelligence,iv power,v law,vi life,vii agency,viii and glory,ix to name a few. Joseph Smith revealed: “All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.”x Clearly, spirit or light is a substance, and Satan tries to steal it. The absence of light causes misery.
Natural man. There are a variety of definitions about the natural man, but one characteristic that we ought to explore is that the body of the natural man is made up of telestial material. A reality of that condition is the fact that celestial ideas are wholly foreign to him, as are putting forth celestial efforts and living celestial laws. The nature of the natural man is to follow the instincts of his telestial body and partake of that which naturally resides in a telestial environment. Consequently, by nature the natural man is “carnal, sensual and devilish.”xi
Carnal, sensual and devilish. Beyond being a list of loathsome characteristics, carnal, sensual and devilish seems to form a downward, spiraling cycle. To be carnal is to be of the flesh; that is, we naturally pamper the physical body and are inclined to succumb to its passions and appetites. Both the apostle Paul and Nephi’s brother, Jacob, state that “to be carnally-minded is death.”xii That is, if we give in to carnality, we will eventually give in to sensuality by seeking more and more physical and sexual pleasures. At least two things are automatic with sensuality: lying and a damaged testimony. The carnally minded who become sensual will stop believing and begin seeking physical evidence as signs to confirm the truth.xiii This condition is spiritual death. Such behavior weakens us to the point that Satan can take control of our bodies and then we become devilish. Now our behavior begins to mirror that of Satan; we become sexually perverted, sinister, cruel, scheming, deceitful, and mischievous. We begin to act like the demons who prod us to become like them. The carnal, sensual and devilish cycle inevitably leads to apostasy. Breaking covenants is inevitable,xiv and that tragedy summons the judgment of God and damnation of the soul.
Because Satan knows that the body is highly susceptible to suggestion and can be acted upon by outside influences, he knows that he can tempt us to sin. If we cave in, something terrible happens: “That wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth.” How does Satan take away light and truth? “Through disobedience.”i Literally, sin creates a gash in our souls, allowing Satan to gain entrance. Now light hemorrhages from us. Once inside, Satan can drain us of truth, spirit, intelligence, power, law, life, agency, and glory.
Are we listening to the scriptures? The strategy of Satan is to tempt us to sin so that he can gain entrance and drain us of light!
How does he accomplish this feat? Through direct temptation, deception, flattery, and sometimes abuse: “Yea, he stirreth up their hearts to anger….Yea, he saith unto them: Deceive and lie in wait to catch, that ye may destroy; behold, this is no harm. And thus he flattereth them, and telleth them that it is no sin to lie that they may catch a man in a lie, that they may destroy him. And thus he flattereth them, and leadeth them along until he draggeth their souls down to hell; and thus he causeth them to catch themselves in their own snare. And thus he goeth up and down, to and fro in the earth, seeking to destroy the souls of men.”ii
If he can empty us of light, we will be left in darkness, and then the mischief begins. Without light, we are without truth, intelligence, power, law, and agency, the capacity to choose: “Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.”iii
Do we grasp the meaning?
When Satan gains entrance to our souls and convinces us to sin, he steals our light and thus our ability to act and choose is greatly diminished. Satan has won after all. Our agency, that for which we fought in the war in heaven, is now his…and we hardly put up a fight.
Inside Our Souls
Does it terrify us to think that Satan can actually take up residence in our souls by convincing us to sin? He might tell us otherwise, but it is true. Once inside, Satan can fill our thoughts with myriad evils and convince us to experiment with all sorts of wickedness. We must keep in mind that the body has no inherent capacity to act on its own, but rather must be “acted upon”i by another source. If that source is evil, carnality will soon give way to sensuality and eventually devolve to devilishness.
Now Satan can explain away spiritual events, including our testimony. He can change our opinion of people we love so that we see them through the filter of criticism. He can ruin our perception of ourselves, and plant the idea in our minds that we are beyond forgiveness and beneath God’s consideration. He can parade our sins and the sins of others before our eyes and torture us with ugly memories. He can replay sinful events as though we were watching a movie. He can invade our sleep with horrifying dreams. He can render us powerless to resist further temptations. He can tell us what to think and what to do, and we will do it! He will tell us that we are good people after all, and what we are doing does not qualify as sin; we should go easy on ourselves and other people, and we ought to adopt the attitude of tolerance—a prevalent latter-day deception. Clearly, with a ruptured soul that is bleeding light, we are as impotent as a victim of a stabbing.
With one-third of the hosts of heaven and a legion of disembodied unclean spirits at his command, Satan enjoys almost unlimited access to talents and abilities beyond our imagination. Within his demonic realm are skilled artists and musicians, medical personnel, mechanics, people who understand the workings of the mind, others who peddle sex, businessmen, philosophers, scientists, and geniuses of war. Clearly, he can sabotage the arts, cause illnesses, aggravate us with break downs, torment our minds, lure us with sexual perversions, attack our livelihoods, advance seemingly reasonable philosophies and theories, and turn us against each other. Moreover, he can enlist weak-minded or wicked individuals on the earth to do his bidding. Whereas the Holy Ghost imparts spiritual gifts to the righteous, Satan gives counter spiritual gifts to his followers, then he uses those people as his instruments. Unfortunately, the weak-minded, spiritually immature, and sinful people cannot readily discern his tactics.
Satan is the devourer.i Therefore, we must “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”ii With little imagination, we might expect that he would have a counterfeit to Home Teachers and Visiting Teachers, except his companionships would be assigned to carefully observe their charges with the purpose of identifying weaknesses. Perhaps then they would report back and devise a strategy to destroy us in the same way we would report to our church leaders for the purpose of creating a plan to give charitable service.
The Sin Becomes a Cancer
Once Satan has succeeded in causing us to act on his temptation, he attempts to hold the sin in place by persuading us to wink at the transgression, disregard it, or feel so much guilt that we are paralyzed to seek wellness through repentance. The problem with unrepentant sin is that it is the seed of a spiritual tumor, which grows inside the soul until it has consumed it. The seed of unrepentant sin is never dormant; its cells divide like cancer until the system is overwhelmed by it. When Satan convinces us to sin and persuades us to procrastinate repentance, he enjoys free reign to dull our conscience, steal away our light and truth, and render our soul spiritually illiterate. The cumulative effect weakens the soul so that Satan can shackle it and lead it carefully down to hell.i
The Atonement—The Only Source of Healing
Only repentance made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ can once again infuse light and truth into the soul and free it from Satan’s grasp. We must examine ourselves for unrepentant sin and get ourselves to the Healer, whose servant is the bishop. Only the bishop holds the keys to direct the healing process; only the Melchizedek Priesthood has the power to eject an uninvited influence from afflicting our souls. We can no more heal ourselves of a serious spiritual disease than we can heal ourselves of a serious physical disease without consulting medical professionals. To assume the contrary is a deception perpetrated by Satan for the purpose of remaining inside and in control. Elder Boyd K. Packer said,
In the battle of life, the adversary takes enormous numbers of prisoners, and many know of no way to escape and are pressed into his service. Every soul confined to a concentration camp of sin and guilt has a key to the gate. The adversary cannot hold them if they know how to use it. The key is labeled Repentance. The twin principles of repentance and forgiveness exceed in strength the awesome power of the adversary.i
The Body’s Difficulty with Retaining Light
Finally, we must wage our defense against the forces of darkness from a point of view of knowledge. We must know our enemy and we must understand his strategy. Clearly, the adversary’s attack is aimed at our most vulnerable area: the physical, telestial body. The body of the natural man seems incapable of maintaining the substance of light,i which is essential to spiritual life. That is our primary weakness, as Moroni pointed out.ii Whereas a resurrected celestial body “shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in [it],”iii a mortal telestial body must receive ongoing transfusions of light in order to exist spiritually. Therein lies our answer.
Armed with this knowledge, we know how to defend ourselves and to heal from former sin. The Lord has told us how we can infuse light into our systems and thus protect ourselves. A few transfusion methods are scripture study, partaking of the sacrament, anointing with oil, charitable service, temple worship and, of course, prayer and fasting. The more our bodies are filled with light, the more we can comprehend all things,iv and the more we can detect and resist the onslaught of Satan’s temptations.
With light and truth re-entering our souls, something marvelous begins to happen: “Light and truth forsake that evil one.”v The combination of confession to and counseling with the bishop, sincere repentance, infusing light and truth into our souls, and, if necessary, receiving a blessing by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, carries the power of casting away Satan, obtaining forgiveness from the Lord, and achieving total spiritual health. Whereas sin breaks and divides, the Atonement mends and makes broken things one. The Atonement provides a constant pull to bring together fractured parts into their perfect form. Therefore, the frightening realities of sin can be overcome and eradicated by the merciful Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Atonement allows us to experience life without being destroyed by our choices.
Once we are delivered and re-lighted by Jesus Christ, we are commanded to light other people whom Satan has wounded and entered. The singular commission to the repentant and the forgiven is to reach out to those who are spiritually dying and to bring them to the Light, even Jesus Christ.